Out and About on Kodiak Island… The Last of the Alaska Series

Tony and Cammie took us out fishing on streams like this. The fishing was fun, but it was the beauty of the country that caught me. The family had been camping on this stream.

 

We had gone to Kodiak to visit our son Tony, his wife Cammie, and our three grandsons: Connor, Chris and Cooper. Tony was flying helicopters on rescue missions for the Coast Guard, often in stormy weather over dangerous seas.  Cammie, in addition to overseeing our rambunctious grandsons, had started a jewelry business using sea glass that she collected off of the beaches. Some of the glass was particularly colorful, having ended up in the ocean as a result of a popular bar being destroyed by the 1964 Tsunami.

Cammie and Tony.

The boys and I check out a tide pool. I am pretty sure that’s what grandfathers are supposed to do with their grandkids!

The kids took us around the Island, at least the part that was easily accessible by road. We played tourist, went fishing for salmon, helped Cammie gather sea glass, and ventured out into the bay on a halibut fishing expedition. I’ve already posted on our bear watching trip and a series of closeups. Today’s photos reflect our outings with the kids and bring to an end our visit to Kodiak Island and the Alaska series.

We did a fair amount of salmon fishing. Here’s Peggy working a stream.

Our catch… Of course Peggy caught more than I did. That’s par for the course. Sigh.

She also caught this halibut! Few fish taste as good. The kids have a halibut chowder recipe to die for.

When Tony went to Alaska, he didn’t fish, nor did he have any desire to. But he fell in love with fishing. Salmon and halibut were often on the menu.

Cammie took to salmon fishing as well. Here she receives a high-five for catching one. She’d even grab her pole and head out when Tony was on assignment. Remember, this is Kodiak bear country…

We fished this stream. A Kodiak bear was fishing the same stream a couple of hundred yards away! I found him when I was out wandering around, without my camera, unfortunately.

This attractive cliff was just up from where we were fishing.

Looking out toward the bay.

Another example.

The whole family went searching for sea glass. It’s like going on a treasure hunt!

Cammie turns the sea glass into beautiful jewelry. If you would like to see more of her work, her Facebook site is Coastal Road Designs.

A final photo of the beautiful Kodiak Island.

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I Am Going on a Thousand Mile Hike… At 75

View of Mt. Whitney from the west including Curtis Mekemson.

I’ll be completing my thousand mile journey by climbing Mt. Whitney, the curved mountain in the background and the highest mountain in the contiguous United States. I’ve climbed it many times. Here I was wrapping up a 360 mile backpack trip to celebrate my 60th birthday. Will I be looking as spunky after a thousand miles at 75?

Expect some changes in my blog. I am gearing up for a thousand-mile backpack trip this summer starting on June 17, 58 days from now. I’ll be travelling from Mt. Ashland, a few miles from our home and following the Pacific Crest Trail south to Mt. Whitney through the Siskiyou, Marble, Cascade and Sierra Nevada Mountains. With mountains to climb, rivers to cross, wild animals to confront, swarming insects to avoid, and bad weather to face— not to mention the challenge of backpacking 1,000 miles— there will be plenty of adventures along the way. And there will be lots of photographs. Much of the country I will be backpacking through is drop-dead gorgeous.

My journey will take me through a variety of terrains, including Yosemite National Park.

I estimate the total trip will take about three months, including breaks. It’s my intention to blog about the journey along the way. Peggy will be backpacking part of the trip with me, but mainly she will be doing back-up, meeting me at places where the trail crosses the road. When we have cell phone service, I’ll have Internet. I am excited about sharing the journey with you. Once the adventure gets underway, I’d appreciate your sharing a post or a link with your followers. I figure the more people hiking along with me, the merrier! I’d like a few thousand beside me when I encounter my first bear!

Black bear with cave in Alaska

Yosemite is black bear country. I once woke up with one standing on top of me. At 75, I might have a heart attack! 🙂

Not many people go out for a thousand-mile backpacking trip. And the number of 75-year-olds who do it are far fewer, maybe a handful. But I am no stranger to long distance adventures and this year marks my 50th year of backpacking. I think of the journey as a celebration of doing what I love to do, and a statement that age isn’t necessarily a detriment to having grand adventures.

Having said that, I realize I am 75 (grin). I’ll be seeing my doctor before I go. And Peggy and I are doing a 40-mile conditioning backpack trip along the Rogue River in four weeks. That, along with the first 60-mile section of the trail, will give me a hundred miles. The way I think is that if I can do a hundred miles, I can do a thousand! If not… well there are always other adventures.

There is a ton of preparation that needs to be done in getting ready for the trek, in addition to conditioning. I’ve started by putting my gear together. I’ll be traveling ultra-light, using the modern terminology. Peggy turns white and checks the budget each time I head out to REI. My new tent, backpack, sleeping bag, and mattress weigh seven pounds, which is what my old backpack alone weighed. I am hoping to keep all of my gear to under 15. With food for a week, this should keep my total weight to 30 pounds max.

The route, food considerations, resupply points and permits all need to be planned out and reviewed. There will be less time for my blog over the next couple of months. I will be limited in the number of posts I can put up and the number of posts I can read. My apologies in advance. But I will do what I can! And I will put up a few posts on my preparation efforts, including the backpacking trip along the Rogue River.

The beginning of my journey will take me around the edge of the Red Butte Wilderness, which includes the Red Butte Mountains seen here from our deck. Thunderstorms are often a challenge when hiking through the various mountain ranges of California in the summer.

WEDNESDAY’S POST: I wrap up the Alaska Adventure with more photos from Kodiak.

FRIDAY’S POST: It’s ground zero in MisAdventures with Freshmen PE Dance Class!

MONDAY’S POST: A look at today’s ultralight backpacking equipment.

The Raft Trip Through the Grand Canyon… Conclusion, and Happy Earth Day

We were nearing the end of our 18-day journey down the Colorado River and had left the Grand Canyon behind. There were still spectacular views, however.

The river was slowing down, backing up as it approached Lake Mead. The rapids were behind us. We formed a flotilla and leisurely made our way toward take-out. We were ending our 18-day raft trip that had taken us through the Grand Canyon. Today’s photo essay reflects our final three days.

It is Earth Day tomorrow, and few things remind us better than the Grand Canyon that there are beautiful, wild places on earth that deserve our love and protection. I bumped up my normal Monday post to Saturday in honor of those who have fought so hard to save the Grand Canyon— and the earth. Enjoy.

The flotilla of rafts only required gentle corrections. Jame demonstrates just how gentle those corrections were…

And then lines up with several of our women rafters for a photo op.

Our adventures weren’t completely over. A sandbar that had been dry the night before provided an interesting challenge in the morning, as it had the night before for those who had chosen to sleep on the sand bar. (I’d picked a site above the river for Peggy and me. Grin.)

Our journey had been about several things, but certainly the people were central to the experience.

We had a whole cast of characters, including Yours Truly, looking like I had just spent 18-days on the river.

Peggy balances on the end of a raft and assumes a Titanic pose, which is something she likes to do. I have another photo of her like this poised above the piranha infested waters of the Amazon River.

Susan shows off by hoisting a five gallon propane canister! Strong woman, eh. 🙂

And Bone, of course, who found a prickly seat for this photo.

More than anything else, our trip was about rafting through the Grand Canyon. I took this photo of Hance Rapids from the rim after the trip. Each set of rapids was unique, and some were massive. Boatmen live for the challenges these rapids provide and our boatmen proved to be experts at negotiating them.

For me, the journey was more about the incredible beauty and natural history of the Canyon.

The beauty continued even as we approached Lake Mead and our take-out.

The Canyon walls were particularly beautiful in early morning and evening light.

But there was beauty any time of the day, and along every mile we traveled.

The Hualapai Indians provide a different perspective from their Skywalk, which is perched 4000 feet above the river.

And our eyes were always searching for wildlife along the river, such as these Big Horn Sheep.

A final reminder of the beauty along the way…

Eventually all great adventures come to an end. Here we are deflating the rafts that it seemed like we had filled ever-so-long before, literally lying down on the job!

A special thank you to Tom Lovering for organizing and leading our adventure. As you may very well imagine, a great deal of effort and expertise goes into planning a trip like ours. BTW, this may be the only time you ever see Tom with a halo.

And a special thanks to Don Green who so generously allowed me to use some of his excellent photos from along the way.

Bone, whose vest has now been signed by all of the rafters, looks down on Tanner Rapids, which we had made our way through a couple of weeks earlier. In addition to rafting through this section of the river I’ve backpacked into it twice and Peggy has backpacked into it once.

I hope you have enjoyed this trip down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon along with Peggy, me and our friends. Thanks for joining us! The Canyon is a very special place. And it is one of the world’s greatest natural wonders. Happy Earth Day!

Curt and Peggy

Raw Sex and the Nuclear Holocaust… A MisAdventures’ Tale

 

Judy gave a small lock of hair to each of her many admirers.

When was the first time you recognized a member of the opposite sex as something other than a playmate, or, possibly, a pain in the butt?

Almost as far back as I can recall, I had a girlfriend, or at least believed I did. The girls didn’t necessarily have to agree. The first girl who caught my attention was an ‘older woman,’ the fourth-grade sister of one of my classmates in the third grade. She had quite a mouth on her and called her little brother names like s**t-head and f**k-face. As mentioned earlier, I had an extensive vocabulary of swear words. My brother, friends and I used such words extensively but I had never heard a girl talk like that. I was fascinated. I fell under her spell.

And thus it was, one fine Saturday, I found myself on my first great solo adventure, walking 2 ½ miles following the Southern Pacific railroad tracks to her home with the sole objective of hearing her speak those magical words. I was not disappointed! Be still my beating heart.

My first real heart-throb, though, was in the fourth grade. This time, she was a younger woman in the third grade: cute, blond and smart. While I may have appreciated those qualities, what fascinated me about Carol was that she could run like the wind. I was in love with her legs. We both lived within a couple of blocks of school and would walk home for lunch. The advantage of going home was that we would arrive back at school before the other kids were let out for noon recess. This meant we could grab the best positions for whatever game was being played. My problem was that Carol could outrun me and this meant I was usually second in line. It seemed like a small price to pay for seeing those legs kicking up the dirt in front of me.

In the fifth grade, the woman of the year was Judy, a fourth grader with flaming red hair who had every boy in the fourth and fifth grade passionately pursuing her. The competition was fierce. Judy loved it while the other girls must have been extremely jealous or, maybe just disgusted. To encourage us, Judy cut off small locks of her hair and gave one to each of her admirers. I was surprised she had any hair left but I cherished my lock and took it to bed with me at night. My main competitor for Judy was Eric, who was an up and coming fourth grader, small, but extremely athletic and an all-around nice kid. Judy let it be known that we were the chosen two.

Eric.

We had our showdown at a school movie that provided instructions on what to do when the Russians bombed our school. We spent a lot of time in the 50s worrying about that. People began building bomb shelters in their backyards. The teachers would make us crawl under our desks to prepare for the explosion. We were supposed to cover our faces with our arms so glass shattering in from the windows wouldn’t blind us. It is not surprising that the traumatized children of the 50’s grew up to be the anti-war radicals of the 60s and 70s. I stayed up one night to watch an atomic bomb testing in the Nevada desert over 200 miles away. It lit up the whole Eastern sky and added a touch of reality to our hide-under-the-desk practice.

In the lineup for the movie, Eric aced me out and managed to get next to Judy. A half-dozen other fourth graders played honor guard and I couldn’t even get close, but my luck didn’t abandon me altogether. I grabbed the seat immediately in back of her where I could at least monitor Eric’s behavior while admiring Judy’s behind. The lights went down and the movie started. I strained to keep an eye on Eric. He reached over and grabbed Judy’s hand and she let him hold it. I could have killed him. My whole world was crashing down. But then, unbelievably, Judy’s other hand slipped between the chairs and grabbed my knee. My knee! It was raw sex. Who cared if Eric was holding hands with Judy! Who cared if the Russians had somehow determined that Diamond Springs Grade School stood between them and world domination!

MONDAY’S POST: I finish up our 18-day journey down the Colorado River.

WEDNESDAY’S POST: More photos from Kodiak Island, Alaska.

FRIDAY’S POST: More girl problems when I make the mistake of taking PE Dance Class.

Up Close and Personal… Patterns of Nature on Kodiak Island

It would have been easy to miss this spruce cone hiding out among the branches. Having spotted it, I was intrigued by the contrasting colors.

 

I spend a fair amount of time looking around when I hike. Sometimes, I even drop to my knees to check out something that has caught my attention. It might be a leaf, a flower, a bug, or any number of other things. There is a lot of beauty in small things, if we only stop to look. As I was reviewing the photos that Peggy and I took on Kodiak Island for today’s post, I noted several pictures that fit into this category. So my final post on Kodiak, turned into two. Today’s is up close and personal… Enjoy.

Shelf fungus are interesting from both their bottom and top sides…

Looking down on the shelf fungus.

I am always on the lookout for flowers. This cutie is known as a monkey flower.

And here we have a blooming cow-parsnip.

I found another cow parsnip that hadn’t bloomed and got down on my back so I could shoot it looking up toward the sky.

I came on a lovely pond that was growing pond lilies and was able to catch a reflection shot, but I also noted a few yellow blooms…

And found one willing to have its photo taken.

Not surprising, Kodiak has its share of fireweed.

And a wild rose by any other name, is still a rose.

Driftwood is always fair game when it comes to searching for patterns in nature.

Swirls within swirls.

Wandering around and looking down, I spotted this. Ah, a fresh bear track, I noted to myself. I found him just over the hill, maybe a hundred yards away from where we were fishing.

Fresh seaweed brought in by high tide.

And more, looking almost alien.

I wandered around at low tide (I always wander around at low tide) and found these barnacles.

And mussels, that might make a dandy treat for someone.

Rocks lining the shore were worth a closer look…

I am pretty sure you will all recognize this. It’s a thing-a-ma-bob that was once attached to a doohickey. This beach had once been a dump before the big tsunami of 1964 hit. The ocean has now transformed junk into objects like this.

Out fishing, we caught this halibut with its interesting  patterns and eyes that have migrated.

And finally, speaking of patterns, what photographer can resist wakes caused by boats?

I liked it so much, I took another photo. That’s it for today. Next Wednesday, I’ll wrap up Kodiak.

FRIDAY’S POST: Remember the days when they taught us to hide under our desks and cover our eyes when the atom bomb was dropped?

MONDAY’S POST: It’s time to wrap up our 18 day raft trip down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon.

A Waterfall Made of Rock! …Rafting down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon

As Diamond Peak came into view, I realized that our trip was nearing its end.

I had thought that things couldn’t get much stranger in the world of travertine rock formations as we left Pumpkin Springs behind, but the Colorado River had a few surprises left for us as we neared the end of our 18 day journey down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon.

First up was a delightful side canyon we climbed up where we bathed— and showered, in the refreshing water of Travertine Canyon. This was a part of the Hualapai Tribe reservation and the Native Americans had built a convenient rope ladder for access.

A view of the ladder we would be expected to climb. But first we had to rope up to get down to the ladder!

Peggy makes her way up the ladder!

The journey had its rewards!

And everyone took advantage of the shower….

By day 17, we could all use one. (grin)

There were also some interesting rock formations in the cavern.

This close up suggests a throat and tonsils. (Photo by Don Green.)

Not much farther down the river we came on an even stranger travertine formation, a waterfall made of rock!

This 100 foot plus rock waterfall was created by water from a mineral laden spring.

A view or Travertine Falls looking up.

And another. I found the jumble of colors and rock types quite interesting.

Small nooks and crannies also held treasures, such as these ferns. (Photo by Don Green.)

I’ll finish today’s post with a few more photos taken as we rafted down the river.

A mesquite tree.

This rock formation shows the impact of erosion.

A Great Blue Heron that caught Don’s attention. (Photo by Don Green.)

A final view of the river for today. Next Monday, we will wrap up our journey down the Colorado.

WEDNESDAY’S POST: Patterns in nature. A close up look at Kodiak Island.

FRIDAY’S POST: Is it possible to find true love when watching an instruction film on what to do when the atom bomb drops on your school.

The Mekemson Kids Did It… It’s a Wrap, Or Is that a Rap-Sheet?

By the time I was in the fourth grade, new friends, a love of wandering in the woods, and a knack for learning had changed my perspective on life.

 

The comments on my series, “The Mekemson Kids Did It,” have been fun. Obviously, I struck a chord. Many of you reached back into the far recesses of your own memory banks to recall incidents from your own childhood. Thanks so much for sharing.

 

Amazingly, like most kids, we survived growing up. Part of it was sheer luck. I never broke a bone or suffered from a bad fall.  Nor did I come close to being drowned, shot, electrocuted, or run over. And all of these were possible. Most of my more ‘serious’ mishaps related to my big feet. Summertime meant bare feet and I specialized in stubbed toes; they hurt. Skin doesn’t appreciate being flayed from the body in big chunks, which is why the activity was highly recommended in Inquisition torture manuals. One toe and I would have confessed to anything.

As it was, I took it like the little man I happened to be and bawled. A dose of parental sympathy, a dash of iodine and a Band-Aid normally made things better. A rusty nail through the foot required more drastic action like a trip to the doctor and a mega-dose of sympathy. As did my encounter with Coaly the Cocker, who sunk her teeth into my foot. As I mentioned earlier, however, the sympathy was lacking that time.

Marshall’s injuries tended to be more serious. That’s because he asked interesting questions like what happens when you put a bullet on a rock and smash another rock down on top of it. He got away with that one, unlike the time he lit a dynamite cap with a match. We were vacationing at Caldor’s lumber camp in the Sierra’s at that time. Earlier in the day, Marshall and I had gone out for a hike and discovered the caps at an old mine. That evening, while Mother was wrapping up dinner, he had slipped outside to experiment. A loud bang was followed by a louder scream. Marshall was lucky. His glasses had protected his sight. The rest of the front side of his body was a bloody mess.  And then there was the time he fell out of a Heavenly tree and shoved a stick into his stomach.

Pop always started running when he heard Marshall scream. With me, he walked. But these were exceptions. Normally we brought home nothing more than the usual bumps, bruises and scratches of youth.

There came a time in his life when Marshall found other things more important than amusing or torturing his little brother. Girls were high on his list, along with cars, cigarettes and being a James Dean type rebel. (He wore his cigarette pack wrapped up in the sleeve of his T-shirt.) I spent a great deal of time by myself except for the ever-present dog and wandered farther and farther afield. The wilder the terrain, the happier I was.

While other kids were busy learning the drama of organized sports, I was figuring what to do with the rear end of a skunk pointed at me. It’s a sure sign the skunk is irritated when she does a handstand and waves her tail in your direction. It’s her way of saying, “My gun is cocked and my finger is on the trigger. It’s your move, stranger.” The secret is not to move. If you are very, very lucky, the skunk will slowly return to all fours and amble off.

But I also begin to develop my own set of friends and an enjoyment of learning, which still exists today. And then— drum roll please— there were girls! Be sure to check out next Friday’s post where the subject is Raw Sex and the Nuclear Holocaust.

Baby Bears and More… Kodiak Island, Alaska

These cubs were delightful little fellows, but photographing them called for a telephoto lens. I didn’t want to irritate their several hundred pound mom. Sow bears are very protective of their kids. One of the rules I always emphasize when hiking people through bear country is never get between a mama bear and her babies.

I visited Kodiak a couple of times when I lived in Alaska. Both times I was on my way to Katmai National Park to go backpacking. So, I missed seeing the Kodiak bears. It wasn’t a problem. The National Park has its own  population of large brown bears. When the floatplane landed at Katmai, a ranger was there to greet us. The area is a renowned fishing area for both people and bears. Fishermen come from all over the world to try their luck.”If you catch a fish and a brown bear comes along, cut your line. Don’t try to land the fish,” he instructed. It seemed like good advice. He went on to say, “If you meet a brown bear when you are out hiking, talk to the bear and slowly back away.” I wasn’t fishing so I wouldn’t need the first bit of advice, but possibly the second suggestion would come in handy.

The opportunity arrived that very evening. I had gone out for a stroll following a trail down to the beach when a thousand pounds of big claws and sharp teeth came strolling along in the opposite direction. Just what the heck was I supposed to say? I improvised. “Uh, Mr. Bear,” I started out tentatively, “You don’t want to eat me. I am an Alaskan just like you.” He stared at me with his small beady eyes and coughed. I wasn’t sure whether the cough meant I was full of BS or that I should go on. I assumed the latter. “There’s some great German food and Japanese food in camp,” I added as I slowly backed away.  It wasn’t that I actually wanted the bear to eat any German or Japanese fisherman. But, as I noted, I was improvising. He growled and left the trail. Maybe he was heading off to sample some ethnic dishes. I let out a huge sigh of relief and continued down to the beach.

The next day I watched an even larger bear fishing in a deep hole along the river. It was obviously a prime location. The bear wasn’t fishing the way you see them in the documentaries where the bears hang out at waterfalls with their mouths open. He was playing submarine where he would disappear under the  water until he caught a fish and then stand up on his hind legs while he consumed it. It was like he was eating corn on the cob except he was consuming the cob as well. I could here him crunching away. Twenty inches of trout disappeared in a couple of minutes. As I watched, a smaller grizzly sized bear came along to share in the catch. Bad decision. The large bear let out a roar and charged while the little guy leapt out of the hole and hightailed it though camp with the big guy hot on his tail. And, I can assure you, every thing they say about the speed of bears is absolutely true. I was ever so glad that I wasn’t on the trail.

The action on Kodiak wasn’t quite as dramatic, but it was equally interesting as the following photos will show.

Mama suggests to a large male that he go elsewhere. He did. You don’t mess with the mama!

Crisis solved, Mom leads her kids in the opposite direction along the fish pass,

And decides to go fishing.

Where she demonstrated her technique. (The salmon got away.)

“Come on in,” she urged the kids. “The waters fine.” But the cubs passed on the opportunity.

So she rejoined them— and provided a tongue bath.

Meanwhile, other bears were fishing the broader Dog Salmon River beneath the weir.

Including another mom with an older cub. The cub watched as mom searched for salmon under the water.

Successfully.

“Come on Mom, share!” the cub urged.

A seagull hovered above the cub, hoping for some table crumbs.

A bit later, a pair Kodiak bears had a standoff in the middle of the river! It seemed they were trying very hard to ignore each other.

Until the bear on the right decided to suggest that the other bear go elsewhere!

Which it did…

Junior stood up so he can see the action…

While Mom took a front row seat…

And then stood up to salute the victor. “I pledge allegiance…”

With the salmon caught and cubs fed, it was time to take a break.

The cool water provided an escape from the bugs…

While the fish pass provided  some warm sun for an afternoon nap. Anyone one up for telling the bear that it isn’t supposed to be on the fish pass? (grin) Next Wednesday I’ll take you along on trips to catch salmon, troll for halibut, and search for sea glass.

FRIDAY’S POST: A wrap up on the Mekemson Kids Did It.

MONDAY’S POST: The next to the last post on the 18-day journey down the Colorado River.

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The Great Pumpkin and Rabbit Ears Made of Romaine… Rafting the Grand Canyon: Part 11

As we passed outside of the Grand Canyon National Park boundary, the Canyon lost some of its grandeur, but just barely.

I wasn’t too surprised when Susan Gishi sported Romaine Lettuce as rabbit ears. In fact, wandering around with my camera, I may have encouraged her. Nor was I surprised when she wielded the cutting knife threateningly. Or when the kitchen crew started head loading the salad containers (not too successfully). Tom ran a tight ship in the kitchen and his mutinous crew responded with humor. After 15 days on the river, his efforts at organization were somewhat analogous to herding cats, or maybe kangaroos. It tended to make him grumpy.

Susan demonstrates how to wear Romaine Lettuce, and the proper way to cut it.

This is the rowdy kitchen crew, Susan, Peggy and Eggin.

Susan demonstrating how to head load.

A convenient ledge provided first row seats to watch the crews shenanigans.

Later, Teresa decided to become a stalker.

While Don Assumed the pose of the thinker. Hopefully, the rope stayed in place.

His shirt makes a ghost appearance.

As we passed outside of the National Park boundary on our trip down the Colorado, the Canyon lost some of its grandeur. But there was still plenty to see. Pumpkin Springs was a good example. It looked like a huge pumpkin. Beth, whose nickname is Pumpkin, was glad to climb up on top of the springs for perspective. The gourd-like structure is another example of a travertine formation created by the lime pumped out by the hot springs. An interesting note is that the spring also has a high concentration of arsenic. Health standards are set at 50 milligrams per liter. The level at Pumpkin Springs has been measured at over 1000! Don’t drink the water! Bone, of course, had to take a sip, but doing anything  he does usually has an inherent risk. I once watched him dive into a pitcher of margaritas at Senior Frogs in Mazatland, Mexico and refuse to come out until a señorita gave him a kiss.

Rock formations continued to entertain us.

Volcanic rocks begin making an appearance, including this large chunk of basalt…

Obsidian…

And columns of basalt. They reflect the way basalt may crack when it cools slowly. The Devil’s Postpile along the John Muir Trail is one of the best examples of this phenomena.

A view of Pumpkin Springs.

Beth provides perspective on the size of the springs.

While Bone gets up close and personal.

Peggy and I both took turns at the oars. Peggy’s was mainly a photo-op but I rowed for a longer period, giving Dave a break. He even encouraged me to try my luck at death-defying rapids (more like a 1 on a scale of 10.) “Point toward the V made by the water and stay in the center,” Dave had advised before going back to sleep.

Peggy takes her turn at rowing…

As do I…

Dave taking a snooze while I row.

This is an example of the small rapids I rowed through.

A final view of the Canyon for today.

WEDNESDAY’S POST: Up close and personal with the big brown bears of Kodiak Island.

FRIDAY’S POST: Living on Graveyard Alley— or not. It’s a wrap on the Mekemson Kids Did It.

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“Your Mother Chases Fire Trucks” … The Mekemson Kids Did It

While the Diamond Spring’s Firehouse has been rebuilt from when we were children, it still stands in the same location. It was a block away from where we lived. The siren was loud. My dad would be off and running as a volunteer fireman, while my mother… Read on.

 

Pop (my father) was a volunteer fireman for Diamond Springs. As an electrician, it was his job to show up at burning houses and shut off the electricity. When the siren wailed, he was off and running, as were all the other volunteer firemen in town. It was serious business.

For Mother, and for us, it was a break in small-town routine and, I hate to use this word, entertainment. We also took off at the sound of the siren, jumped in whatever old car we had, and sped along behind the fire truck. The time of day and activity of the moment didn’t matter. If it were three in the morning, we would jump out of bed and throw on our clothes; if we were eating, the meal would be abandoned; if we were playing, the toys would be dropped. Nothing could compete with a fire. Our devotion to disaster was right up there in the same league as it is with today’s television crews.

The star performer was someone’s house. There was excitement, danger and pathos. Firemen blasted away with their hoses in a desperate attempt to save the home while the unfortunate family looked on in dismay. But the climax, the Fourth of July finale, was when the roof and walls would crash down and shoot sparks and fire high into the sky. I did keep my oohs and aahs to myself. Somewhere in the back of my mind a small voice whispered that our family outing was not totally appropriate.

“Your mother chases fire trucks,” one of my little buddies jeered at me in an argument.

My response at the time had been, “So…” But later in life I would ponder what the towns-people thought about Mother, two or three kids, and a dog always showing up when the flames were high. Pop must have been embarrassed. I remember him telling Mother once to stay far behind the fire engine and far away from the fire. He did it under the guise of being concerned for our safety and our need to stay out of the way. I now suspect he hoped we wouldn’t be recognized. But he never did have much success in telling Mother what to do. The siren’s call was not to be denied.

 

Bob Bray Shoots Out a Window

I grew out of my mischief causing phase but I was able to pull off one final coup and live up to Bertha Bray’s expectations. Remember, she wouldn’t let her son play with me because she was afraid I would corrupt him.

For some unfathomable reason, Bob’s parents bought him a Wham-O Slingshot. I mean, how in the world can you expect a kid to be good when he starts playing with his Wham-O? The fact that I owned a Wham-O as well, almost guaranteed trouble.

Bob and I agreed to meet for a clandestine hunting expedition. It had to be clandestine because I was still on Bertha Bray’s ‘do not invite’ list. Our only rule for the adventure was that anything that moved or didn’t move was a valid target. Things were going great until we came upon the old abandoned bum’s shack that was just off the Southern Pacific railroad track about a quarter of a mile away from Bob’s home. Typical of such structures, it had been created out of anything that was available for free: old aluminum roofing, miscellaneous boards, an occasional nail, a thrown away mattress, etc. It had one crowning glory, a window. Bob and I looked at each other and had a simultaneous thought. Out came the ammo for the Wham-Os, a shiny new marble for Bob and several BBs for me. We took careful aim, counted down, and let fly.

To this day, Bob claims he saw his marble harmlessly strike the windowsill while my BBs were smashing the glass to smithereens. I of course saw Bob’s marble hit the window dead on while my BBs formed a neat pattern around the edges. The current occupant of the not abandoned home, who was washing dishes behind a willow bush in a small stream, saw something entirely different: two little boys smashing his pride and joy. He let out a bellow and came charging up the trail. As he should have. Once again the Mekemson Gang, along with its newest recruit, was on the run. The good news is that we escaped. The bad news was that the bum/hobo/homeless person who lost his window, recognized Bob. He went straight to his house. Mrs. Bray’s worst fears had been realized.

Monday’s Post: We are getting close to the end of our trip through the Grand Canyon on the Colorado River. I even get to row a bit and take on a couple of death-defying rapids. (True… except for the death-defying.)

Wednesday’s Post: Big brown bears!

Friday’s Post: I wrap up the Mekemson Kids Did It.

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